For years the process of dreaming was considered a confusing one that led many medical professionals to wonder if it served any process at all, or was rather a side effect of another deeper process that was yet to be understood. New research suggests, however, that the dreams we have may actually effect what we remember and how well we do things while awake.
The images that race through our minds as we dream have led many to ask, what is the significance of the people and thoughts we have in dreams, and what does it have to do with the rest of our daily life? Do dreams actually spring as a result from our daily life, or do the things we dream about actually impact our behaviors in ways we cannot possibly imagine? And where do nightmares come from? Research from one dream study published in Current Biology suggested that patients who dream are often better at the tasks they dream than those who do not.
The study pitted several subjects against a computer maze in an attempt to get to a tree. The tree, along with the music playing in the background soon became a theme in some peoples’ dreams, but those who reported having dreams about traveling through mazes or even playing the game were reportedly far better at the game in the following days. One subject reported a dream wherein they were traveling through the maze, only to urn into people at certain intersections who would tell them things, effectively assisting them in getting to the end of the maze. This may have been symbolic of a quite literal learning process that allowed the gamers to not only learn how the maze worked, but intuit the patterns in the maze that may have come to them subconsciously. And if the maze was truly random, the discrepancy between the gamers and their ability to get through the maze may have been largely chance. Of course there are factors that do have an effect on seemingly random events, particularly if they subconsciously understood the algorithm that generated the mazes and worked some of that understanding into their conscious minds.
Researchers suggest that the dreams were not the cause of the better memory, but rather that the dreams were a side effect, or an indicator of other processes that were going on beyond the dreamer’s understanding that led the dreamer to see images as a byproduct of the cognitive processes going on behind the scenes. Researchers suggested that dreams may be indicative of what the brain is doing while a patient is asleep rather than the dreams themselves being the cause and having an effect on those cognitive processes. Of course this is nothing new in itself, but it does show how these processes can have an effect on the learning process. And of course it raises a question if these cognitive processes can be altered or changed by patients who lucid dream as well. Further research is required, but researchers are hopeful.